Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental and behavioral disorder characterized by the tendency to obsess over minute life details or rituals to the point that they become overwhelming and greatly affect quality of life. The disorder often develops during the teen or early adult years.
Everyone has a tendency to obsess about things from time to time, such as making sure to have a wallet and keys. But for people with OCD, the repetitive checking on tiny life details like this can become all-consuming and lead to additional problems.
Symptoms of OCD
A few characteristics clearly distinguish OCD from run-of-the-mill worrying. People with OCD, for example, may develop real fear and anxiety over the thoughts running through their heads. The fears may be somewhat irrational, such as a fear of germs and being dirty or thoughts of performing forbidden sexual acts or acting out violently. The fears and thoughts sometimes play themselves out over and over again and cannot be controlled.
People with OCD also replay certain actions over and over again, sometimes irrationally. They may lock the door and then unlocking it repeatedly, or they may wash their hands over and over.
If these thoughts and rituals eat up an hour of the day or more, then the person may have OCD. For many, the symptoms evolve to the point of almost nonstop anxiety that can greatly affect their lives and well-being.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder can often be treated successfully, generally with a combination of medication and therapy. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications are often prescribed for obsessive-compulsive disorder. Though neither medication is specifically for OCD, they have been shown to help with a number of the symptoms. The type of therapy that's most often recommended for OCD is cognitive behavioral therapy.
However, a variety of medications and therapy have success records in treating OCD so the best approach for someone with the disorder is to work closely with a doctor to find the right combination of treatments to ensure success.
SOURCES: U.S. National Institute of Mental Health; International OCD Foundation